8 Hacks for Grilling The Perfect Salmon On Your Charcoal Gril

8 Hacks for Grilling The Perfect Salmon On Your Charcoal Gril

It’s that time again…Spring, AKA the perfect time to grill some salmon!

Think you’ve got to go to a fancy steakhouse for the perfect grilled salmon? Not true! The best place to get the freshest, smokiest, juiciest grilled salmon is right on your charcoal grill - and it’s not as complicated as you think! Achieving the perfect grilled salmon on your charcoal grill doesn't have to be intimidating when you follow these eight tricks.

1. Choose the right salmon

The type of salmon you buy will have a colossal impact on the final result of your salmon-grilling extravaganza.

Farm-raised salmon tends to be milder in flavor and have a fattier texture. If you see “Atlantic salmon” on the label, you’ll know that it’s farmed. Catching wild salmon in the Atlantic is prohibited to protect the salmon population.

Atlantic salmon, with its high-fat content, can be more forgiving on the grill with a bit more protection against drying out. One of the main reasons grilling salmon on a charcoal grill is so intimidating is that it is incredibly easy to overcook. Turn your head for a second, and you’ve got to throw everything out and order pizza. Atlantic salmon’s fatty texture means a bit of overcooking won’t dry it out as easily.

Wild-caught salmon tends to be pinker, leaner, and more flavorful than its farm-raised cousin. Wild-caught salmon typically comes from Alaska, New Zealand, and other places in the Pacific. It’s a little trickier to cook, but that extra punch of flavor is worth it.

2. Leave the skin on

Skin-on salmon is easier to grill because the skin holds this fish together and adds more fat and flavor as it cooks. If you can’t find skin-on salmon, just rub your salmon with an ample amount of olive oil before placing it on the grill.

3. Keep your salmon from sticking

One reason people are scared to grill salmon on a charcoal grill is that they’re afraid the salmon will stick, fall apart, and they’ll start crying in front of all of their guests. To keep your salmon from sticking, clean your grill grates well with a grill brush and scraper before cooking, and then oil the grates with an oil that has a high smoke point, like canola or avocado oil.

4. Skip the cedar planks

Cedar planks look cool, but they don’t improve the taste of your final product. Grilling is all about grate-on-food action - that’s where the flavor comes from. The best way to develop the smoky, charred, mouth-watering flavor you want is to grill the salmon directly on the grates of your charcoal grill.

5. Go natural

All-natural lump charcoal made from hardwoods swathe your salmon in naturally smoky goodness without any leftover chemical taste. Go all-natural (and skip the lighter fluid) for the best grilled salmon flavor.

6. Grill skin-side down

In life as in grilling, skin is built for protection. Grilling your salmon skin-side down helps it stay together, protects the flesh from flare-ups, and keeps it juicy by catching juices before they can drip into the grill.

The best way to end up with juicy salmon is to do 90% of the cooking of with the skin side down. After 6-8 minutes, flip the salmon and cook for an additional couple minutes, just enough to get beautiful sear marks and caramelization of natural sugars on the skinless side.

7. Go wild with your seasoning (or don’t)

The great thing about grilling salmon on a charcoal grill is that you can go in any flavor direction you want and it still tastes amazing! Savory, hot, herbal, or sweet - salmon is a best friend you can take anywhere because it gets along with everybody.

For purists, a dash of salt and pepper combined with the smoky flavor from your charcoal grill is all you need to create mouth-watering salmon.

Is barbecue calling your name? Make your own sauce with this recipe.
Craving something a little sweeter? Try this Honey-Garlic Salmon Glaze recipe.
Feeling a little spicy? This recipe's not-so-secret ingredient is Sriracha.

8. Don’t be intimidated!

Grilling salmon on your charcoal grill might seem intimidating, but don’t let fear keep you from experiencing the “you-can-only-get-at-home” flavor of perfectly smoky grilled salmon from your very own backyard grill. With these eight tips, a great cut of salmon, a little patience, and some great music in the background (we think the right cooking music really helps), you can delight your guests with the best grilled salmon they’ve ever tasted.

A secret 9th trick is to avoid heavy duty cleaning by using a Kick Ash Basket when you grill. Learn more here!